Death row ‘blas­phe­mer’ goes into hid­ing

Nelson Mail - - World -

A Chris­tian woman spared the death sen­tence af­ter her blas­phemy con­vic­tion was quashed has been freed from jail as Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties in­sisted she re­mains in the coun­try.

Asia Bibi was flown from prison in Pun­jab prov­ince to the cap­i­tal, prompt­ing spec­u­la­tion she may al­ready be en route to asy­lum in Eu­rope.

But the gov­ern­ment said she re­mained in Pak­istan as Im­ran Khan’s ad­min­is­tra­tion tried to avoid a re­peat of protests by re­li­gious hard­lin­ers that paral­ysed the coun­try af­ter her ac­quit­tal last week.

‘‘Asia Bibi is com­pletely se­cure at a safe place in Pak­istan,’’ said Mo­ham­mad Faisal, a for­eign min­istry spokesman. ‘‘Asia Bibi can go any­where she wants to. If she wants to go abroad, no harm in it.’’

How­ever, a UK Chris­tian char­ity said the Catholic mother-of-five and her fam­ily re­mained in dan­ger. Her hus­band has ap­pealed to coun­tries in­clud­ing Bri­tain to grant his fam­ily asy­lum.

Last night, 24 Bri­tish cross-party Catholic MPs and Lords called on the For­eign Sec­re­tary to al­low Bibi to make her home in the UK.

An­to­nio Ta­jani, pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, has al­ready of­fered the fam­ily refuge in Eu­rope.

News that the 53-year-old farm worker had been freed and flown from Mul­tan to Is­lam­abad trig­gered anger from hardline re­li­gious par­ties. Thou­sands marched in the port city of Karachi to call for her ex­e­cu­tion and other ci­ties were braced for a re­peat of last week’s protests, which blocked roads and closed schools and of­fices.

A spokesman for the Tehreeke-Lab­baik (TLP) party said her re­lease vi­o­lated a deal with the gov­ern­ment un­der which as­sur­ances had been given she would stay in the coun­try un­til the supreme court had heard a pe­ti­tion protest­ing against her ac­quit­tal in re­turn for call­ing off ac­tion. But the in­for­ma­tion min­is­ter said spec­u­la­tion she had left the coun­try was ‘‘ex­tremely ir­re­spon­si­ble’’.

Bibi spent eight years on death row af­ter she was wrongly con­victed of de­fam­ing the prophet Mo­hammed. She de­nied blas­phemy and said she was falsely ac­cused.

The Nether­lands yes­ter­day of­fered tem­po­rary ex­ile to Sai­ful Mu­look, her lawyer, who fled Pak­istan last week­end.

– Tele­graph Group

AP

Ashraf Asim Jalali, sec­ond from left, the leader of Pak­istan’s Tehreek-e-Lab­baik re­li­gious party, ad­dresses a news con­fer­ence with oth­ers re­gard­ing the ac­quit­tal of Chris­tian woman Asia Bibi, in La­hore.

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